a spot of vernacular creativity on the street

Given that busking paid my rent over several summers back in the day, I have a special place in my heart for buskers, and street drummers are super cool. I captured this video (on my phone, sorry!) while out strolling around sunny Boston with all the other tourists this afternoon. Enjoy. Here’s a direct link in case the embed doesn’t work in your feed reader.

If you want to try this at home, all you really need is a couple of sticks, some old paint cans, good coordination, a killer sense of rhythm, and years and years and years of practice.

Here’s a video of a different Boston street drummer with a much more esoteric style. Hope he’s still around!

There are heaps of other great busking videos on YouTube, too.

the buddha machine: lo-fi zen minimalist heaven

In the mail yesterday, I got a buddha machine, brought to us by FM3. I love it, and I made a minimalist lo-fi film to celebrate (see below).

Incidentally, it was not only shot but also edited in about 10 minutes using the VideoDJ application (which is a perfectly functional video editing tool) in my Sony Ericsson K800i. Very cool.

alternate link

Excellent review of the buddha machine at PopMatters.

Belkin TuneTalk Stereo shipping this month

An announcement from iLounge:

Belkin today announced that its new TuneTalk Stereo will be available in North America in mid-June, with launches in Asia, Europe, and Australia to follow closely. The $70 device, first shown at Macworld Expo in January, lets you record audio in CD-quality stereo sound. It features two high-quality omnidirectional microphones, an auxiliary 3.5mm stereo-input for an external microphone, and comes with a positionable stand. The TuneTalk Stereo also has an adjustable gain control switch, an extended dock connector spacer for using the device with a protective case, and is available in both black and white colors.

It hasn’t been reviewed yet as far as I can see, but this device promises to be the first semi-decent stereo microphone for the iPod video. It would be even better if you could plug two microphones into the microphone adaptor – then again, if you owned two quality microphones you would probably be using a proper field recorder and not an iPod.

Update 06-07-2006: The Tunetalk Stereo has been reviewed at iLounge. They were pleased with the sound, but noted the limited stereo separation (because the built-in microphones are so close together). However, I just realised you could plug a powered stereo microphone, or a pair of microphones through a stereo adapter, into the line-in. So despite having no speakers for immediate playback (and presumably no monitoring through headphones while recording) it does look to be the winner so far.

audio recording on ipod video: signs of life (updated)

From Gizmodo: Xtreme Mac have announced the upcoming release of a voice recorder that attaches to the ipod video via the dock connector, allowing the user to record at 22khz through the flexible microphone provided or with any mic via the 3mm input. What I really want, though, is a built-in stereo microphone or at least the ability to connect one. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come.

update: Belkin will start shipping the Tunetalk Stereo in April. The Tunetalk is a stereo voice recorder (with dual built-in microphones and a line-in input) that attaches via the dock connector. It records in 16bit at 44.1khz (stereo) or 22khz (mono). The iPod bible iLounge tested the device at Macworld Expo and seemed pretty positive, even giving it their “best in show” award, apparently. Looking forward to some real reviews on its release, but things are looking up, that’s for sure.

love and the mechanical sublime

In Adelaide over the weekend, I used Harry Potter as an excuse to experience the Capri Theatre first-hand. The Capri is a majestic, massively high-ceilinged theatre, with wooden floors, and two tiers of plush velvet seats. It is also home to the SA branch of the Theatre Organ Society, and boasts the most incredible theatre organ I’ve ever seen – a modern mechanical marvel featuring 20-foot high pipes, automatic flapping vent things (excuse my ignorance on the details) that kind of act as selective amplifiers, and a battery of percussion instruments (from glockenspiels to snare drums and canastas) mounted on the walls. They’re played via switches and pedals on the organ itself, which – you better believe it – rises from underneath the stage to thunderous, delighted applause from the audience. (A history and lots of photos here).

I’m not satisfied yet that I know what’s going on when we love obsolete mechanical technologies (and, come to think of it, old things, and lost and found things) so much. I could follow a well-trodden cultural studies line, and argue that the ubiquity of the digital (that is, technological plenty, for those who have it) means that cultural capital can only be accumulated by performing your knowledge and mastery of the rare and forgotten as well as the new and undiscovered (that is, technological scarcity). I think maybe part of it is that digital culture, and digital technologies, are so slippery, transparent, and uniformly inscrutable – when they do break, or die, or become outdated, they just sit there like deactivated clones, blank and silent, with their blank little screens. Maybe loving the way that you can see and touch and hear and feel the moving parts of clocks, and cars, and spanners, and pianos, is not only about about their enhanced presence as things, but also something to do with bodies.

iPod video

One of many interesting discussions about the affordances, limitations and possible uses of the video iPod is happening at Adrian Miles’s blog. As I say in the comments, I’m quite positive about the implications of the iPod for small-format, visually humble and sonically rich cinema – like what my team had in mind with the prototype digital story we produced in the masterclass last week, or this kind of videoblog post. Once I get clearances sorted, I hope to post a version of our “story” (which is not so much a story as an impression, since it didn’t have a script and instead used remixed location sound and stills) soon.

A frequently overlooked, but incredibly important innovation from that point of view is that the new iPod records audio at 44.1 khz, which is CD quality, instead of the lame 8 khz the previous models limited you to. Not only that, but it records in stereo, which makes an enormous difference for recording anything other than lecture notes.

I want one.

Who wants to buy me one for Christmas? Sigh. I’ve been blessed with gadgets from heaven…

[edit]: Nice article on the new iPod in relation to audio recording at iLounge, and another lengthy discussion at music thing.

Post-punk seminar: git along!


Dr Graham St John
Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies, The University of Queensland

Making a Noise˜Making a Difference: From Techno-Punk to “Punk-Hop”

Date: Thursday 16th June 2005
Place: Seminar Room 402, Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies, 4th Floor Forgan Smith Tower, St Lucia Campus, The University of Queensland

Time: 2.00pm ˆ 3.30pm

Members of the university community and the general public are invited to attend this free seminar with refreshments to follow.

The seminar maps the ground out of which “punk-hop” outfit Combat Wombat arose, exploring in the process, how punk became implicated in the cultural politics of a settler society. Charting the contours of Sydney’s early 1990s techno-punk emergence, and tracking the mobile and media savvy exploits of Combat Wombat (and their sound system Labrats) from the late 1990s, I will cast light on the counter-colonial trajectory of post-punk.

Graham is a cultural anthropologist with an interdisciplinary research interest in contemporary youth cultures, techno culture, counter cultures and performance. He is currently based at the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies as a postdoctoral fellow.

Current projects include: ‘Performing the Country’, a study of contemporary performative contexts for the (re)production of ‘Australianness’ in the wake of recent historical and ecological re-evaluations; ‘Dance Tribalism and the Global Party’, which explores the local character and international flows of rave and post-rave dance music culture; and ‘Victor Turner and Contemporary Cultural Performance’, which critically investigates the relevance of the theory and approach of Victor Turner in the study of contemporary cultural performance.

For further information, please contact:
Ms Rebecca Ralph, Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies
Ph. (07) 3346 9764 Fax (07) 3365 7184
Email: admin{dot}cccs{at}uq{dot}edu{dot}au

Or visit the website.

Musical Baton

Anne has passed the musical baton to me, so…

Total volume of music on my computer

I haven’t put much on the iBook, so: 1.6GB (pathetic). But the external hard drive with legacy MP3s from my desktop PC has in the region of 10GB (still pathetic). There is some of absolutely everything in there, trust me.

The last CDs I bought

I actually don’t buy many CDs for myself – people give them to me, and I give them to other people. The last two I was given were:

Damien Rice / O – the soundtrack to my life for the last few months
Ward / It Might Be Useful for Us to Know – which is fantastic and I am going to tell you why when I get round to it (promise!)

Song playing right now
The Slits – Typical Girls
(This is kind of only half cheating cos I wasn’t playing any music when I started this post, so deleted everything I had preprogrammed into party shuffle and this is what came up first – really)

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me

Only five? Geez…

Soft Cell – Say Hello, Wave Goodbye
Neil Diamond – Love on the Rocks
Damien Rice – Delicate The Blower’s Daughter
Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley’s version is magic too)
Ben Harper – Walk Away

[if I was trying harder to be cool, this list would have been very different – but it’s an honest and contextually appropriate list! At least it has thematic coherence, right?]

Next on the list: Christian, MC Gregg, Trine, Glen and Ben. In your blogs, ploise. Oh, but leave the permalink in comments here, kay?

[update] Geez, I wish Sigur Ros’s Staralfur had been playing while I wrote this post. It’s my New Favourite Song in the Whole World.

Archaelogy of the Voice

Ever since MIT4 last week, I’ve been exploring a recent epiphany to do with the sonic characteristics, and not only the visual ‘construction’ of digital stories In this article from 1997, performance theorist and archaeologist Mike Pearson reflects on some of the issues raised by the Centre for Performance Research, Aberystwyth’s (then) recent conference on ‘An Archaeology of the Voice’. Archeology + Performance Studies – cool:

First, we might consider the voice as itself an artifact, manufactured through social practice. Its utterance is its raw material but as with a stone tool it is worked by hammering, splitting, trimming, polishing; as with a pot it is thrown, glazed, decorated, embellished, fired; as with a metal axe it is smelted, cast, moulded, alloyed. The processes of its fabrication are social, cultural, personal, artistic. It attains the deep patina of usage. Yet it is susceptible to wear, corrosion, mutation, decay; it displays marks of time and experience.